Manos – The Hands of Fate is a side-scrolling action game based on a cult horror film that was released in 1960s. The film is notoriously bad, and was featured on the show ‘Mystery Science Theatre 3000.’ The iOS game is filled with characters and references from the film. Such a bizarre set-up could result in a hilarious, absurd game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
You begin the game as Mike, the patriarch of a family that’s lost during a road trip. They arrive at the Valley Lodge and Mike must make his way through a series of obstacles to save his family from creepy cultists, snakes, and a giant turkey buzzard thing. Needless to say, there is not much substance here.
And… you’re dead.
Manos – The Hands of Fate is instantly charming due to its 8-bit retro style. Its presentation is reminiscent of an NES-era horror game complete, and it even sports stylish box art for an icon. After the main menu, however, the charm stops.
First off, the game is frustratingly difficult. Jumping and fighting require precise timing and it may take a few deaths before you realize the challenge you’re up against. Mike is equipped with a revolver and can also wield a shotgun at times. Shooting enemies is simple enough, but often you’ll have to jump-dodge incoming attacks. Enemies will damage you from angles that are nearly impossible to avoid and can follow you through walls on certain stages. There is a certain sense of satisfaction you’ll feel after completing a challenging section, but overall the experience is cheapened by the difficulty rather than enhanced.
The level design is similar to the Castlevania games of old, in that they are large and packed with obstacles, coins, and secret passageways. Traversing the stages can be fun, but it requires a lot of backtracking, and you’ll come to confusing sections where you’ll be stumped on how to proceed further. There is a lot of detail in the environments, but we couldn’t help but feel that fans of the film would be the only ones that would understand some of the stranger design choices.
Obviously the game was created to entertain film geeks and lovers of bad cinema, so outsiders beware. Perhaps after seeing the movie we’d be more inclined to recommend Manos – The Hands of Fate, but the uninitiated should stay far away from this one.